If you're caring for a loved one, an adult day service might be good for both of you. Know the options and how to help your loved one adjust.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're a caregiver, you might be curious about adult day services — programs that provide care and companionship for older adults who need assistance or supervision during the day. Understand this resource for caregivers and how an adult day service might benefit you and your loved one.

Adult day services, also called adult care or adult day programs, are typically open during normal work hours. An adult day service might be a stand-alone facility or be located within a senior center, nursing facility, religious institution, hospital or school. There are two main types of adult day services, including:

  • Adult social day service. This kind of adult day service provides social activities, meals and recreation. Limited health care services also might be provided. For example, a staff member might be able to remind your loved one when it's time to take his or her medication.
  • Adult day health care service. This kind of adult day service provides social activities and meals as well as intensive health care services and therapy for people who have severe health issues or need medical attention throughout the day. Some programs provide care for people who have a variety of conditions, while other centers specialize in caring solely for people who have dementia, mental illnesses or developmental disabilities.

An adult day service might delay or prevent your loved one from needing to move to a long-term residential care facility. Its programs can encourage your loved one to spend time with others and enhance his or her self-esteem. Even if your loved one has dementia, he or she might be able to enjoy music, simple activities and being surrounded by friends. Beyond providing social opportunities, an adult day service can serve as a safe and familiar place for your loved one to receive health services.

An adult day service can also give you and others who care for your loved one a much needed break, possibly enabling you to care for your loved one at home for longer. You might use a service to provide care for your loved one so that you can go to work, take care of personal business or simply relax.

Be patient. It might take some time for your loved one to feel comfortable at an adult day service — especially if your loved one has shown discomfort in group settings in the past or if your loved one has become withdrawn due to his or her health issues. Give your loved one a chance to get to know his or her new environment gradually before deciding if a program is or isn't a good fit.

If your loved one has dementia, introduce him or her to an adult day service as early as possible. Your loved one will have a greater ability to adjust to an adult day service when he or she is still able to understand and enjoy its offerings.

You can locate adult day services available in your area by using the Administration on Aging's Eldercare Locator website. It will provide contact information for your state or local Area Agency on Aging (AAA), which can help you find care service providers. Also, check to see if your state has an adult day program association.

March 25, 2015